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Hornbill Festival: Inside Naga morungs — part I

By Our Correspondent Updated: Dec 06, 2019 1:01 am
Sentinel: A Zeliang tribesman on the fifth day of Hornbill Festival 2019 at Naga Heritage Village Kisama in Kohima on Thursday. EM Images/ Caisii Mao

Our Correspondent

Kisama, Dec. 5 (EMN): Despite, and even perhaps because, of all the downbeat sentiments surrounding the annual event, Hornbill Festival has managed to survive and stand its ground—twenty years on the trot surely must count for something.

As has been the case for almost two decades, this year’s edition of Hornbill Festival at Kisama has drawn visitors from all corners of the globe. The unwritten rule dictates that all visitors must enter the numerous morungs, and interact with its occupants.

Playing the role of visitors, Eastern Mirror on Thursday sought audience with the occupants of different Naga morungs—if only to share the experience with our readers.


Ntsemo, leader of a Lotha cultural troupe, said that there were 45 ‘participants’ —22 girls and 23 boys, village elders and youths—participating in the festival. He also informed that this is the third time the club members were performing at the Hornbill Festival (2010, 2015 and 2019). They have prepared 10 cultural items for the festival, for which they have been practising for over a month, he said.


Forty-five participants, consisting of 15 girls and 30 boys, from Dibuia village in Mokokchung are there to perform, according to the troupe leader, Longrichang. He informed that they have prepared 10 cultural items.

Yanger Ao, the person “in charge” of Ao morung, said that the food item that had attracted most tourists was smoked pork cooked in anishi. All the food items, he said, have been transported from Mokokchung district.


Fifteen women and 30 men from Woshu village of Chang tribe, have come to perform in the festival, informed their troupe leader, Chingmak. He admitted that they did not practice much as the performers already knew the moves they have learnt since childhood from their forefathers. He said that they have prepared 10 cultural performances. They travelled for more than 10 hours to participate in the festival, he said.


New Pangsha village represented the Khiamniungan tribe to perform at the Hornbill Festival— consisting of 22 women and 15 village guards, where three of them were said to be students. For them, this is their first participation—a result of practice for more than four months.

According to the troupe leader, they had travelled for 350 km by bus to reach Kisama, and due to the long-distance, it was difficult to bring the materials for their performance. He also mentioned that the cold weather was posing problems for members of his troupe.


Seven villages from the Mopong unit of Konyak tribe came to participate—where 41 women, all confirmed to be married, travelled around 500 km to reach Kisama. Cultural secretary of the union, Eshang told Eastern Mirror that they have been practising for more than four months. She also informed that all the participants were married and have children, and even breastfeeding-mothers were taking part in the festivities.

She shared that since they were from different villages, they would travel and gather at a village to practice every day for around 3 hours and then go back to their own villages. “We would wake up at 3 am in the morning, cook food for the family, do some household chores and then go for practice and we have been doing that for around 4 months,” she said. She also informed that 45 of them came in a bus.

Konyak Students Union, Kohima has been charged with looking after the Konyak morung at Kisama for this festival. They informed that they have been preparing for 2 weeks since the festival started.


Dhirenmew, troupe in-charge, informed that 41 participants consisting of four girls and village elders from Phuvkiu village of Yimchungrü tribe have come to take part in the festival. They prepared 10 cultural items where nine were selected to perform in the arena. He also informed that they practised only for around a week before coming to Kisama as they already know the cultural songs and dances. They travelled nearly 300 km to reach Kisama.


Pongo village is representing the Phom tribe at the Hornbill Festival this year. L Chingpom, troupe leader, informed that 45 participants including seven girls came to take part in the event. Fifteen students were in the cultural troupe. They also travelled around 15 hours to reach Kisama.

He mentioned that searching for cultural dresses and accessories, travelling long-distance and coordinating with the troupe were some of the challenges faced. Morung in-charge, Tongpa also informed that their special food ‘Anphet’ was a prime attraction among tourists.


Darogapathar village performed at the Hornbill Festival representing the Garo tribe–16 girls and 29 boys. College-going students have requested leave to perform in the festival, said Cliff Sangma, the troupe leader. He also informed that they have been practising for four months, and they have prepared 10 cultural items for the festival.  They used to practise for three hours every day in the evening after the students finished their classes.


Khumiasü village of Pochury Naga is representing their tribe, said Shietsütho, the troupe leader. He also informed that 40 participants, all women along with 5 village leaders, had travelled for around 10 hours to reach Kisama. They would practice whenever they were free, and the same troupe also performed at Madhya Pradesh, he stated.


“The ten cultural items prepared for the Hornbill Festival did not need much practise as we know it automatically. We are prepared in such a way that we can perform any kind of cultural dance and song, whenever called for, irrespective of age and gender,” according to Sibeule Hegui, in-charge of the Zeliang morung.

When it comes to the treatment of women, she said that they have traditionally maintained restrictions, particularly for married female. For folk dance, she said, “married women are not allowed”.

In order to differentiate themselves from others during traditional festivities, married women wear plain traditional dress, instead of decorated ones. However, there are no such restrictions for men. A total of 45 participants with 12 girls and 33 male (five elderly men) are representing the community as a cultural troupe.


The popular local brew called ‘Zutho’ prepared at the Angami morung seemed to be running short for first few days, as visitors kept frequenting the morung endlessly. For any casual observer, it was clear that the visitors had discovered an unusual affinity towards the Angami morung.

The local brew is allowed by the state government in Kisama, as part of Naga tradition. However, some morungs restricted themselves from selling local brews or any alcohol products.

According to Zakie Khate, as much 4,000 litres of Zutho were consumed before 7 pm on the first day. The same amount was served on the second day. On December 3, he said that 6000 litres of Zutho was provided, and that too ran out of stock.

The Khonoma village cultural troupe is representing Angami community this year.


A cultural troupe from Kutsapo village from Phek district is representing the Chakhesang community— after practising ten varieties of ancestral traditions for nearly three months, to perform at the annual extravaganza.

One of the interesting features about Kütsapo village is that they generally converse with one another in Sumi dialect, as it is their mother tongue. However, they are also equally well-versed at other Chakhesang dialects.

Group leader Esther Rhakho shared that the distance of travelling for over eight hours was their main challenge. The cultural troupe is mainly comprised of the village’s youth, who are visiting the capital for the first time, she added.

Of all the dishes that Chakhesang morung provides, ‘piglets dish’ and galho (veg-stew) are the major attraction to many visitors, she said.

By Our Correspondent Updated: Dec 06, 2019 1:01:38 am